26/11 butcher hanged


India, Nov. 22 -- India hanged Ajmal Kasab, the sole terrorist captured alive from the 26/11 attacks, early on Wednesday amid high secrecy four years to the month after he and his accomplices murdered 166 people in the financial capital Mumbai. The Pakistani was put to death at Pune's Yerwada jail at 7.30am and his body buried in the prison complex. In an operation remarkable for its secrecy, the 25-year-old was moved out of Mumbai's Arthur Road jail at 1.30am on Tuesday and driven in a bullet-proof vehicle to Yerwada along the Mumbai-Pune expressway, escorted by jawans handpicked from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Neither they nor Kasab were told he would be hanged a day later.

Even the hangman at Yerwada, a Muslim from central Maharashtra whose identity is being kept secret for his security, found out only when he saw Kasab walking towards the gallows.

Kasab, who had been told the date of his death once he reached Yerwada, went to his fate after a quiet night, telling jailors to inform his mother.

"All the police officers and personnel who lost their life in the battle against the terrorists have today been served justice," Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said soon after Kasab was hanged. A three-line home ministry statement said Kasab's death "sentence was executed today at 7.30am at Yerwada Central Prison".

The execution was widely welcomed in India as an unusual sign of toughness on the part of the government and an event that would provide some closure to the relatives of the victims of the Mumbai carnage. Even the Opposition BJP party applauded the decision but was quick to point out that the country had yet to carry out the death sentence on Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru more than a decade after the event.

In Pakistan, the reactions were muted. Most channels broke the news but soon after relegated it to cover other developments in the country. Officially, Pakistan said a terrorist had met his logical end. Interior minister Rehman Malik said no request had been received from Kasab's family members for his body. "We can only ask the Indian authorities for the body if we have a request for this from the family members of Ajmal Kasab."

To avoid leaks, details of Operation X, as it was codenamed, were known only to a handful of people in the ministry of external affairs, Prime Minister's office, home ministry and Intelligence Bureau, according to a senior central government official. Just 17 people in the Maharashtra government were involved in the planning over a fortnight from November 8, when the Union government conveyed to the state that President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected Kasab's mercy plea.

Top government officials said Kasab was told on November 12 that his mercy plea had been rejected. "Tell my mother," Kasab reportedly said in response.

Union home secretary RK Singh wrote to foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai requesting that Kasab's family be informed about the decision. The Indian high commission in Islamabad told the Pakistan foreign office about the hanging on November 20, a day prior. Shinde said that when the Pakistan foreign office refused to accept the communication, it was sent by fax. Officials said a separate communication was also couriered to Kasab's mother.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.